While graduating from college and getting married are significant milestones for anyone—especially those in their early 20s—one Midland student is set to celebrate both life-changing events in the same week.
“To say that the last couple weeks have been crazy is an understatement,” Midland senior Weston Shepard said.
After walking across the stage at Wikert Event Center on Saturday, and relaying words of wisdom to his fellow graduates as a commencement speaker, Weston will have little time to savor the moment before heading down the aisle and saying “I do” to his college sweetheart just a week later.
Shepard’s fiance Michaela Millikan—who graduated from Midland last year and currently works in the university’s admissions department— will tie the knot on May 18 at his grandparents’ farm near Bennet.
After their whirlwind week, the couple will stay in Fremont to begin their lives together as husband and wife.
“We’re going to come back and start our life,” Shepard said.
While both Shepard and Millikan’s enrollment at Midland certainly played a part in them finding each other—the two have also shared a striking number of similar experiences during their time in Fremont.
Both were heavily involved in Campus Ministries. Both were crowned during Homecoming week—with Shepard winning king this year and Millikan winning queen in 2018. And as of Saturday, both will have concluded their time at the university by addressing their classmates as commencement speakers during graduation.
She spoke at graduation last year, and I actually have the opportunity to speak this year,” Shepard said.
Shepard says that for his commencement address he plans to speak about “purpose” and the university’s mission of inspiring people to learn and lead in the world with purpose.
He is also using the opportunity to tell his classmates about an inspirational person he met during his time on the Midland basketball team.
“Earlier this year our basketball team drafted a kid named Colton Humphrey,” Shepard said.
Colton is a 12-year-old from Blair and has been courageously battling cerebral palsy after suffering a stroke during birth.
Colton has had over fifty surgeries in his young life with the latest coming this past July to reconstruct his right leg and then another surgery to remove screws in August.
“I’m going to share his story and some of the things that he has been progressing through the past couple months,” Shepard said. “He is just really inspirational to me.”
While Shepard certainly didn’t plan on meeting his future wife when he chose to enroll at Midland as a freshman, his initial reasons for coming to Fremont are the some of the same that will allow him and Millikan to get married in front of their families next weekend.
Shepard is originally from Springfield, Nebraska but after moving with his family to Marengo, Illinois in middle school he wanted to return to eastern Nebraska to be near his extended family.
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“I knew that I wanted to come back to Nebraska for college because all of my grandparents and extended family is here,” he said. “This is most like home to me.”
Along with being near family, Weston wanted to attend a college where he could play basketball and that afforded him the opportunity to grow his Christian faith and values.
He found both at Midland, where he played for the Warriors basketball team for three years and served as a student manager during his senior season after injuring his knee. He also served as a Campus Ministries leader on campus for three years.
Shepard says that along with getting the opportunity to play in the NAIA National Tournament in Branson, his involvement in Midland’s Campus Ministries is one of his most cherished experiences while attending the school.
During his time at Midland, Shepard went on multiple mission trips to St. Louis, New Orleans and Dallas and counts Midland Director of Campus Ministries Brandon Van Marel as a close personal mentor.
“When he (Van Marel) got here there wasn’t a lot going on with Campus Ministries, I think there were four of us that came to bible study,” he said. “This last year we had 25 different students participate, so it’s been awesome to see it grow.”
Van Marel shared his reverence for Shepard, saying that when he met him as a freshman he knew he was special.
“Early on I knew he was special, but I had no idea how gifted, passionate, and wise that he would become,” Van Marel said. “Over the past four years, I have seen him demonstrate hard work and perseverance in the middle of challenges. He has shown maturity and leadership as he took on new endeavors. He has shown care and compassion for those that are struggling. Anyone who has met Weston will immediately recognize that there is something special about him.”
Along with his heavy involvement and student leadership when it comes to Campus Ministries, Shepard also showed leadership in other areas serving as a Resident Advisor as a sophomore and junior and as Student Hall Director for Midland’s largest co-ed freshman residence hall as a senior.
Shepard also balanced all of those responsibilities with a full schedule of accounting classes, basketball team obligations, and completing two internships during his time at Midland.
Weston interned at Fremont Contract Carriers (FCC) for the full summer of 2017.
During the summer of 2018, Weston was chosen to be an Auditing Intern at the Seim Johnson accounting firm in West Omaha.
“It was quite the experience,” Shepard said. “A lot of learning and having no clue what I was doing and having to figure out what it really means to be an auditor.”
Ultimately, Shepard’s internship at Seim Johnson proved fruitful as he was offered and accepted a position as an Associate 1 Auditor at the company.
He officially begins work at the firm in July.
“Working a Seim Johnson is a huge step in the right direction,” he said. “My mom is an accountant so I’m kind of following in her footsteps.”